One Maryland gubernatorial candidate is calling for the legalization of marijuana. Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeurn (D) says the time for treating pot as an illegal substance has run its course.
"We have found that marijuana's prohibition laws have not worked. Our laws on marijuana are ruining peoples' lives; they've been enforced with racial bias; and they distract our law enforcement from serious and violent crimes we would like them to be focused on," says Mizeur.
She released her plan to legalize pot on Tuesday. Citizens can read it on her website at www.heathermizeur.com/marijuana.
In Maryland, a person possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana could be fined up to $500, and jailed for 90 days. Anyone possessing more than 10 grams of pot could be sentenced to one year in jail, and fined of up to $1,000.
On October 1st, a new law took affect in Maryland to create a hospital-based medical marijuana research program. Marijuana would be provided to research hospitals which may or may not be willing to move forward with a program for patients.
Mizeur says the enforcement of the current prohibition against pot has cost millions dollars, and unnecessarily exposed many people to the criminal justice system. "If we legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, we could generate as much as $150-million a year that I would dedicate to universal, early childhood education," she says. "And we'd see fewer citizens being unnecessarily exposed to the criminal justice system."
She doesn't agree with the argument that smoking marijuana could lead to the use of harder drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. "The studies just don't bear it out," says Mizuer. "The notion of a gateway is more about the illicit nature of the drug. That if you're getting your marijuana from a drug dealer, you're going to have exposure and opportunity to buy other illicit drugs."
Under a legalization bill, she says, regulated retail outlets would sell pot to adults, and keep it away from young children.
In addition, Mizeur says marijuana is not as addictive as some legal substances. "People who use marijuana are only about 9% addicted, versus 15% for alcohol and 32% of all tobacco users become addicted," she says.
Currently, federal laws make marijuana a controlled dangerous substance and therefore it's illegal, and those laws supersede any state or local laws. But Mizeur says the US Department of Justice will not intervene as long as this state activity is strictly regulated.
The Marijuana Policy Project says a poll has found that 53% of Marylanders favor regulating marijuana like alcohol.
Currently, Colorado and Washington are the only states that have legalized marijuana for adults. Massachusetts has approved marijuana for medical uses. Portland, Maine voters in a referendum legalized the use of pot within their corporate limits. Voters in three cities in Michigan, including the capital city, Lansing, have removed penalties for adult marijuana use.